Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens

Contact Address

1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA   19348

Mailing Address:
Post Office Box 501
Kennett Square, PA 19348

Link http://longwoodgardens.org
Email questions@longwoodgardens.org
Phone (610) 388-1000
Hours of Operation 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. 7 days a week

About the Garden
One of the world’s great gardens, Longwood’s story is one of legacy, innovation, and stewardship. Our Gardens are a living expression of all that our founder, Pierre S. du Pont, found inspiring, meaningful, and beautiful. From the intricate fountain systems to the meticulous gardens to the architectural grandeur, awe-inspiring discoveries await at every turn.

When visiting Longwood Gardens, you are immersed not only in the breathtaking surroundings but in a rich history as well. The traditions and elegance of the gardens have evolved over decades to create the magnificence we have today. Step back in time to learn about these important cultural events and their contributions.

There have been many stewards of the land that is now called Longwood Gardens. For thousands of years, the native Lenni Lenape tribe fished the streams, hunted its forests, and planted its fields. Evidence of tribe's existence is found in quartz spear points that have been discovered on and around the property.
In 1700, the course of history changed when a Quaker farmer named George Peirce purchased 402 acres of this English-claimed land from William Penn’s commissioners. Over the next several years, George and his descendants cleared and farmed the rich land, and in 1730 one of George’s sons, Joshua, built the brick farmhouse that, now enlarged, still stands today. 

In 1798, George’s twin great-grandsons, Samuel and Joshua, actively pursued an interest in natural history and began planting an arboretum that eventually covered 15 acres. The collection included specimens from up and down the Eastern seaboard and overseas.

By 1850, the arboretum boasted one of the finest collections of trees in the nation and had become a place for the locals to gather outdoors – a new concept that was sweeping America at the time. Family reunions and picnics were held at Peirce's Park in the mid to late19th century.

 As the 19th century rolled into the 20th, the heirs to the land lost interest in property and allowed the arboretum to deteriorate. The property passed through several hands in quick succession until a lumber mill operator was contracted to remove the trees from a 41-acre parcel of land in early 1906. It was this threat that moved one man to take action.  

In July 1906, 36-year-old Pierre du Pont purchased the farm primarily to preserve the trees. But as we know now, he didn’t stop there. Much of what guests see today – the majesty and magic that is Longwood Gardens – was shaped by the remarkable vision and versatility of Pierre du Pont, one of our nation’s most extraordinary citizens.

He followed no grand plan; rather, he built the gardens piecemeal, beginning with the “old-fashioned” Flower Garden Walk. His later gardens would draw heavily on Italian and French forms. 

By 1916 he was contemplating grand indoor facilities “designed to exploit the sentiments and ideas associated with plants and flowers in a large way.”

The result was the stunning Conservatory, a perpetual Eden that opened in 1921. The latest technology was used to heat, water, and power the complex, but the systems were hidden in tunnels so as not to detract from the grandeur of the glass-covered peristyle and surrounding rooms.

Du Pont chose to fill his new garden not with the usual jungle of exotic tropical foliage as was then the fashion but rather with fruits and flowers used in a decorative, horticultural way. One observer termed his greenhouses “floral sun parlors.”

By the mid-1930s, Longwood had grown from the original 202 acres to 926 due to du Pont’s purchase of 25 contiguous properties over the years. In addition to horticulture, agriculture had always been important at Longwood, which started out, after all, as a farm.

After his wife’s death in 1944, Pierre du Pont directed his energies toward historical research and family genealogy. The gardens were maintained as always, of course, augmented by the gift of Mrs. William K. du Pont’s famous orchid collection. Outdoors, farming operations were discontinued in 1951 except for fruit orchards and a small vegetable garden.

The late 1950s and early 1960s saw tremendous change at Longwood, comparable to the building program of the 1920s except the emphasis was now on public comfort and education.

New gardens, a plant nursery, and an experimental greenhouse were established. A Desert House and 13 outdoor waterlily pools were constructed. Guide maps, publications, and brochures were printed. New greenhouses devoted to tropical plants opened. A plant breeding program was initiated. And a new visitor center with a shop, auditorium, and 1,000-car parking lot were added.

About the Camellia Collection
Total number of camellia plants:   132 on display; 600 total
Number of distinct camellia cultivars or species: 110

These large, evergreen shrubs delight visitors with spectacular, brilliantly colored blooms from October through March in the Camellia House. We began a breeding program in the early 1960s with the goal of developing camellias that can tolerate colder winters.  These efforts have led to the release of two of the hardiest Camellias—‘Longwood Centennial’ and ‘Longwood Valentine’. Research continues—currently focused on developing and ever-blooming camellia.

This indoor space pays homage to the beautiful blooming camellia—one of Pierre S. du Pont’s favorite flowers and one of the first species planted in the Conservatory upon its completion in 1921. Mr. du Pont had a strong interest in camellias and began collecting them in 1912. By 1916, he was importing named cultivars from France.

Learn more about the camellia breeding program.